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J Neurosci. 2003 Aug 6;23(18):7143-54.

Transgenic mice expressing green fluorescent protein under the control of the melanocortin-4 receptor promoter.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4-R) is an important regulator of energy homeostasis, and evidence suggests that MC4-R-expressing neurons are downstream targets of leptin action. MC4-Rs are broadly expressed in the CNS, and the distribution of MC4-R mRNA has been analyzed most extensively in the rat. However, relatively little is known concerning chemical profiles of MC4-R-expressing neurons. The extent to which central melanocortins act presynaptically or postsynaptically on MC4-Rs is also unknown. To address these issues, we have generated a transgenic mouse line expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of the MC4-R promoter, using a modified bacterial artificial chromosome. We have confirmed that the CNS distribution of GFP-producing cells is identical to that of MC4-R mRNA in wild-type mice and that nearly all GFP-producing cells coexpress MC4-R mRNA. For example, cells coexpressing GFP and MC4-R mRNA were distributed in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH) and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV). MC4-R promotor-driven GFP expression was found in PVH cells producing thyrotropin-releasing hormone and in cholinergic DMV cells. Finally, we have observed that a synthetic MC3/4-R agonist, MT-II, depolarizes some GFP-expressing cells, suggesting that MC4-Rs function postsynaptically in some instances and may function presynaptically in others. These studies extend our knowledge of the distribution and function of the MC4-R. The transgenic mouse line should be useful for future studies on the role of melanocortin signaling in regulating feeding behavior and autonomic homeostasis.

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